Legal Top Stories

Morrissey’s NME libel case to proceed to court

By | Published on Thursday 27 October 2011


Oh, fantastic, I’m going to buy a new hat for this. Morrissey’s libel action against the NME over “that interview” is set for a full High Court hearing next year.

As previously reported, Morrissey has finally got round to suing the music weekly over an interview it ran with him back in 2007 in which the singer appeared to say that an “immigration explosion” had damaged Britain’s identity. Morrissey immediately hit out at the magazine and its editor Conor McNicholas, arguing they had twisted his words to make him look racist, so that the interview would be more sensational and sell more copies. The NME denies any such editorial meddling.

Although it took Morrissey four years to get round to suing, top libel judge Michael Tugendhat has ruled the case should be properly heard. At a hearing earlier this month NME publisher IPC argued that the claimant’s delay in pursuing any action meant they wouldn’t get a fair trial (as the case would rely on witnesses recalling conversations from four years ago), and that the fact Morrissey had enjoyed much success as a recording and performing artist in the intervening years made a mockery of his claim the interview had harmed his reputation. The publisher asked that the case be dismissed.

But Tugendhat yesterday said in a written ruling: “Overall, in my judgment, a proper balance between [NME’s] Article 10 right of freedom of expression [under the European Convention Of Human Rights] and Mr Morrissey’s right to the protection of his individual reputation requires, in the circumstances of this case, that the action be permitted to proceed”. He added that the singer’s explanation for why it had taken four years to pursue his action – mainly that his falling out with former manager Merck Mercuriadis in 2008 had left his finances in chaos – was “credible”.

Needless to say, Morrissey welcomed the ruling, telling reporters: “In 2007, the NME viciously attacked me and labelled me a racist and a hypocrite. Last week they sought to avoid facing me in court to settle the matter once and for all. I am delighted that the NME’s attempt to stifle my claim was unsuccessful and that as a result I will be able to use the very public forum of the High Court in London to clear my name, loud and clear for all to hear”.

Despite losing in its bid to block the action, an IPC spokesman yesterday said that “after almost four years, we are glad that the matter will now proceed to trial and we will finally get the opportunity to bring this matter to a close”.

Of course there’s still the chance of an out of court settlement depriving us of a full court hearing, but assuming the case does go ahead it could prove quite entertaining. Morrissey himself, his estranged former manager Mercuriadis, former NME editor McNicholas, his successor and former deputy Krissi Murison-Hodge, and the journalist who conducted the interview – Tim Jonze, now with The Guardian – may all be called to testify. Good times.

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